The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD is fantastic. Whether you approach this HD update with a full sail of nostalgia or a desire to experience an adventure you never had a chance to try, this game is outstanding.
Nintendo took a quest that fans almost universally love, gave it an HD look and tweaked the in-game mechanics in order to produce a more enjoyable, better paced and more attractive Zelda title.
Yes, the Wii U needs games, and it's a little nuts that one of its biggest selling points is a remake, but The Wind Waker is worth your time and money. I've adored this adventure from the very beginning, and tackling it again nearly a decade since my first time has been great.
The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD is a winner.
Still Undeniably Beautiful
When Wind Waker was initially shown off in the early 2000s, I distinctly remember a round of groans and complaints from Zelda lovers. Nintendo, in the eyes of these folks, abandoned the hard realism of games like Ocarina of Time and Majora's Mask in order to create what amounted to a little more than a cartoon.
I did not count myself among those who hated the look of this game. I saw Wind Waker in motion on the GameCube in trailers and previews, and I delighted in this game's visual style.
It's gorgeous. The hard lines, stark contrast and vibrant colors all made the adventure a one of a kind experience, and Nintendo's gone and put it in 1080p for the Wii U. Aside from some harsh whites on the open sea, this game is positively stunning from top to bottom. Just like 10 years ago, I still found myself stopping on the open water in order to spin the camera around at sunset.
Those looks translate to an equally beautiful storyline. The Wind Waker managed to stun me when I played it the first time through. While that punch has worn off a bit over the years, I still prized the characters, special moments and unique surprises that this campaign has to offer.
It's awesome that we're able to experience this one again, and the fresh coat of paint and mechanical tweaks make it that much more awesome.
Tweaks Born from Convenience
The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD is a little more than an update with better graphics. Every tweak Nintendo performed to bring this classic to life once more came from sensibility and convenience.
Adapting the system to the Wii U meant including things like offscreen play, something that's very useful for folks sharing their TV with family members. The game also makes use of the GamePad during normal play as a place to explore maps and manage inventory without stopping the action on screen. You can still pause, of course, but you don't have to just to check a single square on the map.
Those changes are more obvious. Nintendo also tweaked stuff like the starting size of Link's wallet. In 2003, players began Link's adventure with a wallet that only held a measly 200 rupees. That made buying stuff early on rather difficult. Now Link starts with a 500 rupee wallet.
Without spoiling the story for those who missed this game the first time around, one of the biggest complaints about the initial release was the pacing of the latter half. Something happens in the storyline that grinds every bit of momentum to a halt and forces players on an obnoxious fetch quest. That quest remains, though it's been made a bit less frustrating, expensive and lengthy.
In Wind Waker, players must change the direction of the wind with Link's conducting baton in order to reach every point in the open world. It was tedious in the original, so Nintendo elected to add a new sail to the game that ignores the direction of the wind when in use. That sail also increases the speed of your boat, so moving about the ocean happens at a quicker pace.
It's like Nintendo looked at the original product and figured out what made the game tough to swallow for some. They've addressed almost all of those complaints, and The Wind Waker HD is better for it.
Standing Against Contemporary Patience
Perhaps what's most frustrating about today's gaming world is that, and forgive me for going all "get off my lawn" with this one, kids today don't have the patience to test their mettle with tedious affairs. Games that take time to traverse are lauded for being boring. Unfortunately for The Wind Waker, it demands a little patience to be enjoyed.
For those among us that can't be bothered to slow down and take a game's world in one spot at a time, this game will be daunting. It's empty and hollow in places. While I feel that this gives the world a sense of size and spirit, some gamers might be put off by the fact that they need to push through empty spaces of sea for a while in order to progress the storyline.
Wind Waker is 10 years old, folks. And the patience that was needed in order to enjoy games from 10 years ago is very much intact in this adventure. Today's audience might take pause when it comes to sailing into an open world like this.
I'd like to think that most gamers will employ some effort and push through the tough parts of the campaign to get to all the magic within.
A Classic You Need to Play
For gamers who cherished the original Wind Waker and are simply looking to experience the magic once more with a slightly more palatable quest line, this HD remake is nearly perfect. It's a gorgeous reworking of one game that sucked away so much of our time 10 years ago, and it further solidifies this adventure as one of the best Link's ever embarked on.
Contemporary gamers without a track record with this entry in the series might be put off by the size of The Wind Waker's world. Even with the additions and tweaks, this is still a tedious title that will try the patience of a more modern gamer. You'll still love it, I hope, but its age might be more clunky to you.
For me, speaking as someone who spent so much time with the original, my nostalgia made the tediousness of Link's quest forgivable. I loved this journey the first time I completed 10 years ago, and the fact that Nintendo's made it a touch more accessible and more gorgeous only goes to further my enjoyment.
The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD is a must own for Wii U users. Make no mistake.
We received a code to download a review copy of The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD. In addition to beating the game a few times on the GameCube near its original release, we completed the quest on the Wii U before starting this review.